I remember watching the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, gasping in awe at how radiant Markle looked as she gazed up in her white veil at her new husband. It seemed surreal to me. This actress, whom I had come to associate with her “Suits” character, Rachel— a prim, proper, no-nonsense paralegal— was now going to be a duchess and entering the royal family.
It was inspiring to see how things had changed. The world was celebrating the wedding of an actress of color, who had been previously married, to Prince Harry: a man once touted as the most eligible bachelor in the world. Truly, the U.K. was progressing as a society and embracing diversity and change with open arms. And the royal family was a testament to it.
Flash forward to two years later, when Markle and Harry announced their decision to step down from their senior positions within the royal family. This, coupled with Prince William’s recent alleged cheating scandal, Prince Andrew’s association with the disgraced Jeffrey Epstein, and the mismanaged departure of U.K. from the EU, all painted the political situation in the U.K. with secrets, scandal and suspicion.
Markle and Harry’s departure from the royal family was heavily debated. Some people say that their behavior displayed them as First-World, spoiled brats who could not handle the pressures or responsibilities of the royal family. Others praised the decision as a firm stand against an archaic, discriminatory institution.
In my opinion, their decision to take a step back was completely justified. Just examining the articles and press coverage done by the British news outlets and magazines is enough to gauge the immense bias shown against Markle. She was painted as loud, obnoxious and an outsider. Even William’s alleged affair was covered up just to focus on the fashion “don’t” that Markle seemed to commit that week.
Her coverage has been shaped by immense sexism and prejudice: from her wedding, where the absence of her estranged father was heavily scrutinized; to her pregnancy, where she apparently seemed to touch her baby bump a tad too much; to the birth of her child, where she was criticized for not immediately losing the baby weight.
She is seen as an outsider because she isn’t perceived to be the typical dainty duchess as Kate Middleton is seen. But put yourselves in the shoes of Markle: a strong, talented actress, born and raised in the U.S., an outspoken feminist and a talented actress who was part of a successful show.
Leaving all of that behind for love and then finding yourself in a family with all of these rules, in addition to the constant scrutiny from the public in a country that is not even your own, is taxing on anyone’s mental health, let alone a new mother. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t have been prepared for the responsibilities that being part of the royal family entailed, but I am saying that she should have been treated by the royal family, the press and the public with a little more empathy.
With the news of the departure, she is now seen as what Yoko Ono was to the Beatles, the evil vixen tearing her hapless husband away from his family. Honestly, this is far from the truth.
I think Prince Harry has had far more agency in this decision than he is being given credit. In my opinion, Harry has already seen what the vicious press and the stringent royal family did to his mother, Princess Diana, another unconventional woman who followed her own path, and unfortunately suffered an early, tragic death while trying to avoid the press.
In his interviews, he seems resolute and sure in his decision to protect his family by splitting their time between the U.K. and North America and relieving some of their royal responsibilities. This is his time to be his own person, not just a pawn in the larger scheme of things. He is an agent embracing his own autonomy, with the whole world’s opportunities in front of him. After all, everyone needs a fresh start sometimes...even a prince and duchess